Violent crime down
Violent crime in the U.S. reversed an alarming two-year increase in 2007, the FBI reported. According to the latest bureau data, violent crime last year fell 1.4 percent from 2006 levels; the largest drop came in the Northeast, where crime was down 5.4 percent. In cities with more than 1 million residents, the murder rate fell a startling 9.8 percent, but it climbed 3.7 percent in smaller cities. Reported rapes fell 4.3 percent.

New federal debit card

The U.S. Treasury this week rolled out a debit card that people without traditional bank accounts can use to access federal benefits such as Social Security and disability payments. The cards offer “an important entry point to the financial mainstream” for people who don’t use banks, said Treasury Department official Judith Tillman. Federal payments will be credited to the cards every month, enabling users to make free withdrawals from ATMs in the government’s Direct Express network. Officials note that the card is more secure than traditional government checks.